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Technology Helps Get the Conversation Started in Somers

For the growing percentage of international, non-English speaking students in Somers schools, translation services help bridge language barriers, promote inclusivity in school, and make communication easier in the classroom and at home.

There are currently 67 English Language learners in Somers and the district uses a variety of online translation programs and applications to reach them. Tools vary by school and include pullout one-on-one sessions, bilingual teachers and teaching assistants as well as platforms like Microsoft that offer translation programs in many of its applications.

“This is extremely helpful to present students with documents in their native language as they are still learning English,” explained Rebecca Pitke, ENL instructor at Somers Middle School. Pitke said she often uses the translation tools for class documents and handouts. “These tools are helpful during class activities and presentations.”

SMS teacher next to  ELL Student in chairThese services proved to be a valuable resource for two eighth grade students who are learning English. Maylin Mora and Andrea Ruiz Velasquez completed their middle school health class project and presented it to their class and a panel of teachers entirely using available translation implements.

Somers has also begun a pilot translation program using Langogo, a small pocket-sized digital translator that gives students real-time conversion of the lesson as spoken by their teacher as well as the ability to translate text and audio lessons as they happen.

Langogo also offers a two-way translation conversation mode that gives students the ability to “speak” to each other regardless of native language. The portable nature of the Langogo device is helpful for students to bring home each night for both homework and to promote communication between school and home for those families who have limited or no English-speaking proficiency.

According to Karin Brill, Coordinator of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the language interpretation and education translation made possible by the Langogo is essential for students with limited English proficiency to continue to progress academically.

SMS ENL Instructor Rebecca Pitke works on Powerpoint Translation with ELL student Andrea Ruiz Velasquez“Ideally it will allow ENL students to connect with peers and to interact the same way with other students in their native language while developing skills in English,” Brill said. Additionally, she said the portable device allows for two-way recorded and translated voice messages between the school administration or special services and the families of ENL students.

“This a new tool we’ve added to our arsenal of services for our ENL learners and their families and it could be a real-life changer for some of the families to communicate,” Brill said.